Riverbanks Zoo's first baby gorilla passes away

Published: May. 11, 2017 at 3:08 PM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2017 at 10:54 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The baby gorilla expected to be born in a historic first for Riverbanks Zoo has passed away during birth.

Riverbanks officials confirmed the baby gorilla's death Thursday. Macy, an 11-year-old Western Lowland gorilla, was giving birth to the Zoo's first gorilla born, bred, and raised at the zoo when tragedy struck.

The infant was born in the breech position Thursday morning.

"Our staff is absolutely heartbroken," said John Davis, curator of mammals at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. "Macy was a wonderful mother throughout her pregnancy and did everything exactly as she should. Everything was progressing as expected; however, with any pregnancy there can be unforeseen complications."

Gorilla Base Camp has been closed to give Macy the time she needs with her infant.

"We are not going to intervene in the process," said Davis. "Macy appears to be doing well right now. We will continue to monitor her behavior to determine our next steps and when we re-open Base Camp viewing."

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums there is an 80% survival rate of infants born to first-time gorilla mothers.

Davis adds that this is a tough time for the Riverbanks family and the community but the Zoo is hopeful for another gorilla pregnancy in the future.

WIS had been documenting Macy's journey to motherhood in a series of stories.

RELATED: See photos of the process of giving an ultrasound to a gorilla.

Our stories began in February with a look at the process of giving an ultrasound to a gorilla.

Riverbanks handlers were also going through the process of training the other gorillas in the troop ahead of the birth of the baby. Four of the five gorillas at Riverbanks were brought to the zoo in April of 2015 to form a family troop in anticipation of this event.

The birth of Macy's baby was also a part of a long-term species survival plan. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that Western Lowland gorillas are expected to experience an 80 percent population reduction between 2005 and 2071 -- a criteria that qualifies them as Critically Endangered.

Of course, as the world watched April the giraffe give birth, many Riverbanks watchers were wondering if the zoo would do the same. However, the zoo decided against that because of many different concerns, including the fact that the baby may not survive.

From the beginning, the goal of zoo handlers was for them to step in as little as possible so Macy could be a full-time mother.

Those same zoo handlers, who had been preparing for this birth for two years, are now dealing with the grieving process.

This is the second animal death at the zoo in the past week. Penny, an aging female African elephant, passed away after an unexpected fall.

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